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Biden tells allies “America is back,” but Merkel and Macron push back
Joe Biden and reconciliation with Europe
Reconstructing the alliance between Europe and the United States was a priority for Joe Biden. But, how do the leaders of the European Union feel about this? At the first video-conference, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel gave the new American president a warm but cautious welcome. What if this was an opportunity to replace American supremacy with a more equitable alliance?
President Joe Biden used his first public encounter with America’s European allies to describe a new struggle between the West and the forces of autocracy, declaring that “America is back” while acknowledging that the past four years had taken a toll on its power and influence. 1. encounter (official) meeting / struggle battle, conflict / to acknowledge to recognise (officially) / to take, took, taken a toll to have a negative impact. 2. His message stressing the importance of reinvigorating alliances and recommitting to defending Europe was predictably well received at a session of the Munich Security Conference that Biden addressed from the White House.
3. But there was also pushback, notably from the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who in his address made an impassioned defense of his concept of “strategic autonomy” from the United States, making the case that Europe can no longer be overly dependent on the United States as it focuses more of its attention on Asia, especially China.
4. And even Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who is leaving office within the year, tempered her praise for Biden’s decision to cancel plans for a withdrawal of 12,000 U.S. troops from the country with a warning that “our interests will not always converge.” It appeared to be a reference to Germany’s ambivalence about confronting China — a major market for its automobiles and other high-end German products.
THE END OF TRUMPISM
5. But all three leaders seemed to recognize that their first virtual encounter was a moment to celebrate the end of the era of “America First,” and for Macron and Merkel to welcome back Biden, a politician whom they knew well from his years as a senator and vice president.
6. Biden never named his predecessor, Donald Trump, in his remarks, but framed them around wiping out the traces of Trumpism in the United States’ approach to the world. He celebrated its return to the Paris climate agreement, which took effect just before the meeting, and a new initiative to join Britain, France and Germany in engaging Iran diplomatically in an effort to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement that Trump exited.
“It was the dynamic with Macron that captured attention.”
7. But he also pressed Europe to think about challenges in a new way — different from the Cold War, even if the two biggest geostrategic adversaries seem familiar. “We must prepare together for long-term strategic competition with China,” he said, naming “cyberspace, artificial intelligence and biotechnology” as the new territory for competition. And he argued for pushing back against Russia.
8. But it was the dynamic with Macron, who has made a habit of criticizing the NATO alliance as nearing “brain death” and no longer “pertinent” since the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact, that captured attention.
9. Macron wants NATO to act as more of a political body, a place where European members have equivalent status to the United States and are less subject to the American tendency to dominate decisionmaking. But Macron, speaking in English to answer a question, also argued that Europe could not count on the United States as much as it had in past decades. “We must take more of the burden of our own protection,” he said.
10. In practice, it will take many years for Europe to build up a defense arm that would make it more selfreliant. But Macron is determined to start now, just as he is determined to increase the European Union’s technological capacities so that it can become less dependent on American and Chinese supply chains. Biden, in contrast, wants to deepen those supply chains among like-minded
Western allies in an effort to lessen Chinese influence.
11. Underscoring the importance that the European Union accords to Africa, Macron called on Western nations to supply 13 million vaccine doses to African governments “as soon as possible” to protect health workers.
12. He warned that if the alliance failed to do this, “our African friends will be pressured by their populations, and rightly so, to buy doses from the Chinese, the Russians or directly from laboratories.”
13. Vaccine donations would reflect “a common will to advance and share the same values,” Macron said. Otherwise, “the power of the West, of Europeans and Americans, will be only a concept, and not a reality."